Sunday, September 16, 2012

Think Before you Shop

I am what you would call a very strategic and deliberate shopper. I do not make impulse purchases. I always go grocery shopping with a list, knowing exactly what I intend to buy beforehand. Which is not to say that I always buy the same things every single time, or that I never diverge somewhat from my plans, if for instance a product is unavailable and am forced to choose a substitute, but just that I prefer to think ahead of time about the things I need or want and how much money I intend to spend, and not making those kinds of decisions in the store.

The only exception to this would be while shopping at thrift stores and yard sales, where I may have a general idea of what I'm looking for and how much money I am willing to spend, but since you never know exactly what you are going to find in such places, there is much more flexibility and openness to the process. Although when it comes to possessions, I pretty much know my needs and wants, and usually make my decisions based on an items longevity and usefulness. I ask myself, how much do I really need this? Will I get a lot of use out of it? How much value will it add to my life? I carefully weigh the pros and cons of each item, determining whether I foresee it being over time more of a burden or a benefit, and make my decision accordingly.

In all other cases, if I'm thinking about purchasing something that I am unfamiliar with, or have never used before, I always do research about it beforehand, usually reading product reviews about it online, and learning as much about it as I can, so that I can make a more informed decision. This is how I shop, and has pretty much been the way I've shopped since about the age of 18. I think maybe I was a bit looser with my money when I was a kid, being more impulsive, less frugal, but I didn't really have much money back then to work with, so there wasn't much to choose from and very little to lose.

As it is now, I rarely shop at all. My shoes and clothing last me a long time. Even though I gave a thrift store example, I don't shop at thrift stores very often, maybe a couple times a year, depending on what I find, but only go when I really need something. The only store I regularly go to is the grocery store, and I never go shopping for fun, or to just see what a store is like. I don't particularly like shopping, and normally only go shopping when I actually need something, or know what I want beforehand. Which means that, for things other than food, drink, and basic necessities, I do much of my shopping online, and that doesn't happen much either. I don't have a lot of disposable income, so whenever I do buy something more expensive or luxurious, I always plan it out really well, making sure it's worth it, and that I'm getting the absolute best bargain around. An example for this, might be a new pair of shoes, backpack, or computer.

I finished reading that book The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard. It was good, but you know, very dated, but still useful. I'm too lazy to review it. It's a huge topic, much like copyright, don't have the energy to go into it more thoroughly at the moment. Maybe another time. But I will say that it makes me want to never watch television again, primarily to reduce my exposure to commercial advertisements. Almost seems like TV was invented specifically for advertising, like the whole thing is a conspiracy to control your mind, to get you to buy stuff you don't need, and the television is the primary agent used to achieve that end.

Of course, not all ads are bad, nothing wrong with promotion, particularly if the information is factual and not an act of deception and deceit. Unfortunately most ads are to some extent illusionist tricks, not meant to inform, but to misinform, hoping that you take what they say at face value, buying their product without researching the information for yourself.

An advertisement makes me aware of a product, but I never base my decision to buy something on an advertisement alone, preferring instead to get my information from independent testers and product reviews. And in the case of food, the way I see it healthy food doesn't need advertising, it sells itself. It's only the processed crap you don't need that needs convincing, where they actually spend more money on the packaging and advertising than the actual substance itself, which pretty much says it all. So it's safe to say, that if you see a food product advertised on TV, even if it claims to be "all natural" or "organic" you probably shouldn't buy it, or should at least be more wary of buying it. That's how I feel about it anyway.

I'm pretty much an advertiser's worst enemy, in terms of being their least ideal customer, someone who makes all their financial decisions and consumer choices from the perspective of rationality, frugality, practicality, and foresight.

I do not say this to toot my own horn, toot toot, but as a recommendation of a smarter way to shop.

*This is post 9 of 20, part of my "20 posts in 30 days" challenge.